Many of us have love on the brain. If you have an unattached friend or family member, however, you may not be thinking just about your own relationship status, but someone else’s as well. Before you make a seemingly well-intentioned comment to the single guy or gal in your life, make sure that what you want to say actually comes off as such: A number of comments and questions typically directed at those flying solo can be more hurtful and offensive than you realize. While every single person has a different take on his or her romantic situation, here are the 10 overarching biggest offenders.
1. “Why are you single?”
According to Chicago-based matchmaking and dating expert Stef Safran, this is the number-one thing single people hate to hear, whether it’s coming from Great Aunt Ida during a family get-together or from a prospective partner in the middle of a good first date. “Bringing someone’s being single to light makes it sound like something is wrong with them for being single,” she explains. “The idea that it’s probably better to not be in a relationship than to be in a crappy one never seems to be OK.” Instead of asking this question, let the single people decide if they want to discuss their relationship status with you first — never bring it up without them taking the lead on these types of conversations.
2. “You’ll find someone when you least expect it.”
While this statement is certainly well-meaning, there’s no guarantee that sitting back and waiting will result in Mr. or Ms. Wonderful knocking down door, Safran says. “In case people haven’t been following the trends these days, it’s those who are more educated, working more and living in bigger cities with more opportunities who are staying single longer than the people in smaller cities with less choices,” she adds, noting that “waiting” doesn’t usually produce results, especially in urban areas. If you’d like to say something helpful, stop focusing on when your friends or family members will “find someone” (and what you see as “lacking” in their lives) and direct your attention toward what awesome things they already have going for them — like a great job, a new puppy or a fabulous home — or chat them up about their favorite hobbies and talents.
3. "I really don’t know any single guys/girls. Sorry."
The idea that you or your significant other has no single friends or colleagues and cannot introduce your friend of family member to someone seems like a stretch, says relationship expert, matchmaker and dating coach Lori Salkin. She says that the singles she works with would rather you not bring up the fact that you’re not willing to introduce them to anyone than apologize. “The truth is that you probably do know someone, but you’re afraid of hurting your relationship with the prospective date (especially if it’s a colleague) if the person is not interested or the date does not go well,” she explains. If you can’t — or aren’t willing to — help, just don’t mention it at all.
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4. “You’re still single? What’s wrong with you?”
Yes, these questions were really posed to 24-year-old public relations professional Maya Merlis, who has been single for about 18 months and remains the only unattached person among her siblings. “As if it’s not already something that crosses my mind, the last thing I need is for someone to assume that the reason I am single is because there is something wrong with me,” she says. “For those who are confident in their singleness, it can be brushed off and responded to with a smart remark. But for those who are actually quite sad about being single, this could trigger more negative thoughts in their minds and really get them believing there is something wrong with them.”
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5. “I wish I were single.”
Yes, it may look fun from the outside to have your own space and your own schedule, not to mention the excitement that can come from meeting someone new, but that all wears off quickly first date after first date after first date, Salkin says. “The helplessness and loneliness singles have to deal with is very frustrating and depressing,” she says. “Singles may also feel like they are waiting for their life to start while they wait to find the one. Waiting to buy their own place, waiting to take that special trip because they always thought they’d go there with their future spouse, and even waiting to purchase a matching set of dishes because they figure soon enough they will be doing a bridal registry.” So if you’re attached, don’t presume that your single friend or family member’s situation is somehow better than your own. In fact, it’s best to not make comparisons at all.
6. “Don’t worry, you won’t be single forever.”
Presumptive much? Psychologist Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, Ph.D., who specializes in social and personality psychology, psychoanalysis and relationships, explains that this statement may inadvertently cause people who weren’t worried about their relationship status to wonder if they should be. This may cause feelings of inadequacy and lead them to question whether or not they are “whole” or “enough” without a significant other. “So much of the cultural myth is based on notions of completeness that it appears if you do not have someone in your life, it’s sad,” she says. “The notion of completion should be substituted with the idea of complement: Another person may complement you, but you are whole and complete in and of yourself.”
7. “Aren’t you lonely?”
Just because someone doesn’t have a romantic partner, that doesn’t mean that he or she can’t have a full, content life. This question often has more to do with your own insecurities than what you really believe about your single friend or family member’s situation, Bais says. “What people do and say is a projection of themselves and where they are. It has very little, if anything, to do with other people,” she explains. Especially if the single people in your life are confident and happy with their current relationship status, their self-assurance may cause you to rethink your own presumptions on relationships and love, which can be a teachable moment for you.
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8. “You must be too picky.”
Having high standards for a romantic partner is a good thing: Designating traits and qualities you’d like in a partner increases your chances of finding someone you can be with for the long haul. So telling a single person that they can’t find someone because they have the self-worth to set such standards is beyond inappropriate, says motivational speaker Fallon Jai, creator of Faithful and Fabulous Female. “This statement tells a person that he or she is not worth being with someone that complements them physically, mentally and spiritually,” she says. “It makes a person feel like he or she should feel blessed if anyone tries to pursue them, no matter how treacherous that person may be.” Clearly this is not the message you want to send to someone you care about.
9. “You’re too pretty to be single.”
Typically directed at women, this statement is problematic for many reasons. Even if your intentions are good and your tone is lighthearted, saying this is not only unhelpful in the general scheme of your friend or family member’s life, but the sentiment demeans the person to their face value. “Someone’s appearance has nothing to do with whether he or she should be in a relationship, Jai says. “A person’s value isn’t based on his or her physical assets. Mental and spiritual appeal is what draws and keeps a person interested.” At least, you hope that the person you’d like your loved one to ultimately be with has that mindset. So encourage them to find the right partner by not focusing on their looks.
10. “You have to focus on loving yourself first.”
This statement basically implies that the recipient’s self-esteem is too low to find a partner, which makes it judgmental and rude. Self-love is a great thing, but having complete confidence in yourself isn’t a requisite for finding love. In fact, licensed psychotherapist Nicki Nance says that while this declaration sounds like it could be legit in theory, it’s actually not true in practice. “There is no proof for this statement,” she explains. “Many people learn to love themselves after a loving partner points out their good qualities.”
What Do YOU Think?
What are your single friends like? How do you talk to your single friends about finding a partner? What are some annoying things that people have said to you when you were single? Let us know in the comments section!